Policymakers in Indonesia are grappling to deal with a weakened currency, the rupiah, which was valued at just 14,930 per U.S. dollar last week — its lowest point since the 1998 Asian financial crisis. But unlike 20 years ago, when economic turmoil led to major political upheaval in Indonesia, most observers say that Southeast Asia’s largest economy is now far better positioned to endure a poorly performing currency.
These external factors have badly hit the Indonesian rupiah, already one of the weakest currencies in Asia. According to Bloomberg, the rupiah has lost around 9 percent of its value against the greenback during 2018. Like Turkey and Argentina, Indonesia also has a so-called “twin” deficit, meaning it is running both fiscal and current account deficits. Rupiah is weak but economy is getting better
Dr. Tommy Soesmanto, an economics lecturer at Griffith University, told VOA that “Indonesians should not be overly concerned with the current situation,” as the economy is in a far stronger position than in 1998. During the Asian Financial Crisis, the rupiah fell from 3000 against the US dollar to 15,000 — a depreciation of some 500 percent from which it never recovered, hovering at around 10,000 per dollar in subsequent years.
Indonesia’s credit rating is now Triple B as opposed to 1998 when it was “considered junk”, Soesmanto said, while the country now has net capital inflow compared with “severe” capital outflow in 1998. Bank Indonesia holds foreign reserves worth some $118 billion compared with just $24 billion back then, allowing it greater leverage to finance debts and imports. Rupiah is weak but economy is getting better.